Hear my voice | It saddens me that post-natal depression is a taboo subject.

Many of us have either experienced mental illness or know someone who has. Yet it can still be a taboo subject, attracting little sympathy or understanding from family, friends and colleagues.

We want to address the stigma surrounding mental health by sharing stories from real people about their mental health journey. Here, Suzanne from Manningtree explains how she coped with pre- and post-natal depression.

As always, we’d love to hear what you think about the story – is it similar or different to your own experience? Get in touch and let us know.

“I had post-natal depression with both my children but particularly badly with Daisy, my second. Because I had had it before I recognised some of the symptoms. But at the time when you are surrounded by the baby paraphernalia and everyone is saying ‘You must be so happy’, it’s hard to admit.

I was induced and they weren’t especially helpful on the ward. We had to stay in two days because I had group B streptococcus. I just cried and cried and I wasn’t getting a lot of help. I knew the symptoms to look out for and then the health visitor picked up on it as well. I was given the medication and was left on it.

I went back and asked for counselling. I had six weeks on the NHS counselling but it was not really better. I can only describe it as having a scab picked or wound opened but because it was the NHS there wasn’t the funding for longer.

I don’t think I had properly recovered after Ben (my first), and that’s why I probably suffered with Daisy. With Ben’s delivery, I felt very out of control at the time. I didn’t feel I could ask questions. When I had Daisy, I put on my birth plan that I wanted to feel in control. When you look back, it’s easy to see things. Ben cried constantly and didn’t feed very well. I was struggling with breastfeeding. Nobody was helping very much. You really feel a failure before you have even started.

With Daisy I could feel myself slipping, straight away. I was fighting it because I didn’t want people to judge me the same again. The health visitor picked upon it very quickly. It took me six weeks before I actually admitted that there was a problem.

The midwives and health visitors kept saying that I needed to go on the medication. I was reluctant because they said I would have to stop breastfeeding to go on this medication but I did give up in the end. It was partly my decision as well. The community psychiatric nurse (CPN) that I was with later said I could go on a different medication which didn’t need me to give up breastfeeding but I was in such a state by then it was like ‘just give me the medication because I know that one works’.

The first six to nine months of Daisy’s life is a very black blur. Obviously they were good moments that I remember but it’s quite hard to look back at those first few months. When the medication started to kick in they asked me to go to counselling. I had one-to-one counselling to start with then I had the option to do group therapy with other mums that were at the same stage as me. That was a positive part of the same journey. I am still friends with them now.

Later, I became quite suicidal and I couldn’t see the point in me being there because I was suffering with back pain, and had endured gall bladder problems, on top of my depression. But the girls and the community psychiatric nurse swept me back up again. That’s the only way I can put it. The nurse visited me at home and the consultant changed my medication slightly. Then I was put in a cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) workshop and all that kind of helped.

The health visitor that I had was the saviour in the whole thing. She picked up on how low I was. She was very involved in talking to the GPs and the mental health team. She met up with me once a week to see how things were. She also got me into the counselling. I did really feel the credit was due to her. I don’t think I would have got through it without her.

It saddens me that pre- and post-natal depression is a taboo subject. Nobody talks about it and it’s not until someone opens up that you realise.”